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Transitioning from Classroom to Workplace

Updated: May 4, 2021

In a lot of ways, the studio environment of college life and an architectural workplace are remarkably similar. Studio culture, however, is insulated from a lot of factors that are vitally important to an office to remaining operational. There’s the obvious of actual clientele, real budgets, and scope of work. These aspects are incredibly important, but I believe the most important things to successfully transition from studio to the real world have less to do with architecture itself and become more personal.

Be confident

Be confident in your skills and abilities! You went to school for 5+ years for a reason. You likely know more than you think. Having confidence will make you more likely to engage in challenging projects and create your own workflow. This not only helps you move up in your office, but also helps your office complete projects more quickly and efficiently.

Always be open and ask questions

Having workplace confidence doesn’t mean you can never ask for help. Asking questions is key to understanding your offices’ protocols and design strategies. Don’t stay silent if you don’t immediately know the answer, it’s more than likely that someone else in the office has the same question. Communication is immensely meaningful in the design field. Asking questions and bouncing ideas off of one another is the only way to continue growing as a designer and office.

Advocate for yourself

Advocacy for yourself is crucial. Always remember that your work is valuable to the company, otherwise you wouldn’t be there! Before advocating for yourself, plan and understand what you’re asking for, gather support, and speak clearly and persuasively about what you’re looking for. wAdvocacy is key in the long-term as you may be sitting on ideas that could turn into opportunities if you simply spoke up.

Education is never over

Architecture is always evolving. There’s always new building materials, design techniques, software and sustainable endeavors. The moment you stop educating yourself in all aspects of architecture is the moment you start to fall behind. Even though school is over and you no longer have grades to “force” you to do the readings and the research, the workplace isn’t the place to stop. In most cases, your boss will be more than willing to fund these types of endeavors, whether with time or money, if it will benefit the firm as a whole.

Action Items - What you can do!

There are always things you can do to continue improving yourself as a designer and an employee. Working in a visual field it's important to always be honing those skills related to visual communication.

Other things that make a difference: Pick up a book! Subscribe to a design magazine! Participate in your local AIA chapter! Sketch!

Written by Brianna Stelfox

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